Tuesday Reads: Trump Tantrum Live From The Oval Office Tonight

Good Morning!!

The TV networks are giving Trump free time tonight to spout lies about a non-existent “crisis” at the Southern border. Fortunately, they are also giving equal time to Democrats to respond. But they should have just said no. After all, they refused to carry an Oval Office speech by Obama in 2014. Matthew Yglesias at Vox:

In 2014, Obama was ready to announce a series of executive actions on immigration in the wake of the collapse in negotiations over a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill. The plan had a lot of moving parts, but the centerpiece was to give work permits and formal protection from deportation to millions of unauthorized immigrants while focusing the nation’s immigration enforcement resources on immigrants who’d committed violent crimes.

This was, naturally, very controversial. And Obama, naturally, wanted to try to make it less controversial by convincing people that it was a good idea.

Conservative pundits were, at the time, pushing the notion that Obama was essentially seizing power like a Latin American dictator, so essentially anything that refocused the conversation on banal policy details would have played to his advantage. TV networks, however, didn’t give him what he wanted, in part because it was November sweeps time, but officially because he was playing partisan politics rather than addressing a true national emergency.

So why are they running Trump’s obviously political speech? Because they’re scared. This is what what one anonymous network executive told CNN’s Brian Stelter.

This “exec” didn’t even have the guts to let Stelter use his name!

Here’s what the U.S. Secretary of State thinks of what Trump plans to say tonight.

These people are pathetic. Meanwhile, in Turkey, more pathetic incompetence from National Security Adviser John Bolton.

Bloomberg: Erdogan Snubs Trump Adviser Bolton for Blocking Syria Roadmap.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, frustrated by evolving U.S. conditions for quitting Syria, refused to meet with visiting National Security Adviser John Bolton and ripped into U.S. proposals to give Kurds a key role in Syria after the withdrawal.

Turkey is angered that Bolton, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and top American military officials are slowing what President Donald Trump suggested only weeks ago would be a quick exit. The delay would restrict Turkey’s ability to launch an offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters it considers enemies but who allied with a U.S. coalition to oust the Islamic State terrorist group from Syria.

“Although we made a clear agreement with U.S. President Trump, different voices are emerging from different parts of the administration,” Erdogan said as Bolton prepared to leave Ankara, where he met with other Turkish officials. “Trump’s remarks continue to be the main point of reference for us.”

It looks like attempts to walk back Trump’s insane policy decisions are no longer working.

Will Trump try to declare a national emergency tonight? I have no idea, but if he does it’s going to cause more problems than any of us can predict. Here are some opinions about what could happen, beginning with the worst case scenarios

Elizabeth Goitein at The Atlantic: What the President Could Do If He Declares a State of Emergency. A brief excerpt:

It would be nice to think that America is protected from the worst excesses of Trump’s impulses by its democratic laws and institutions. After all, Trump can do only so much without bumping up against the limits set by the Constitution and Congress and enforced by the courts. Those who see Trump as a threat to democracy comfort themselves with the belief that these limits will hold him in check.

But will they? Unknown to most Americans, a parallel legal regime allows the president to sidestep many of the constraints that normally apply. The moment the president declares a “national emergency”—a decision that is entirely within his discretion—more than 100 special provisions become available to him. While many of these tee up reasonable responses to genuine emergencies, some appear dangerously suited to a leader bent on amassing or retaining power. For instance, the president can, with the flick of his pen, activate laws allowing him to shut down many kinds of electronic communications inside the United States or freeze Americans’ bank accounts. Other powers are available even without a declaration of emergency, including laws that allow the president to deploy troops inside the country to subdue domestic unrest.

This edifice of extraordinary powers has historically rested on the assumption that the president will act in the country’s best interest when using them. With a handful of noteworthy exceptions, this assumption has held up. But what if a president, backed into a corner and facing electoral defeat or impeachment, were to declare an emergency for the sake of holding on to power? In that scenario, our laws and institutions might not save us from a presidential power grab. They might be what takes us down.

Read the whole thing at The Atlantic.

At Bloomberg, Noah Feldman disagrees, because only Congress can authorize spending: No ‘Emergency’ Will Allow Trump to Build His Wall.

President Donald Trump has said that he can declare a national emergency and order his border wall to be built. He’s wrong. The U.S. Constitution doesn’t contain any national emergency provision that would allow the president to spend money for purposes not allocated by Congress. And it’s clearer than clear that Congress not only hasn’t authorized money for a wall along the border with Mexico but also doesn’t intend to do so.

The upshot is that any attempt by Trump to get around Congress by using invented emergency powers would violate the Constitution. It almost certainly would be blocked by the courts. And it would constitute a high crime and misdemeanor qualifying him for impeachment.

Of course, Trump may not care. He’s established a pattern of taking clearly unconstitutional action, waiting for the courts to block it, and winning (at least in his estimation) political points with his Republican base regardless. It would be perfectly within that pattern for Trump to announce that he can do whatever he wants in a national emergency. He is expected to lay the groundwork for such a declaration in a prime-time address Tuesday. But we should recognize any such action for what it is: a usurpation of clear constitutional commands for the purposes of political grandstanding.

A bit more detail:

The Constitution does contain an emergency powers clause. Article I, Section 9 allows for the suspension of habeas corpus in cases of rebellion or invasion.

Those emergency powers are unsurprisingly varied and broad. But none of them can displace the Constitution itself. And it is the Constitution that says the Congress appropriates money and the executive spends it.

If there were some statutory provision saying that in an emergency the president could do things Congress otherwise has told him he can’t do, that would pose an intriguing constitutional question: Which law would prevail in a conflict between one saying the president could do something and another saying he couldn’t?

But I know of no law that says the president can spend money on purposes that Congress doesn’t want him to spend it on.

From the fact that the suspension clause exists, you can deduce something very basic to the U.S. constitutional system: There are no other inherent constitutional emergency powers. Yes, the president is commander in chief, with the power to defend the United States — but he can only do that with an army authorized and paid for by Congress.

That means any emergency power the president might have must come directly from Congress. The National Emergencies Act of 1976 is Congress’s last word on what emergency powers it gives the president. That law was enacted after Senate staffers’ research revealed some 470 emergency provisions across the whole of the U.S. Code.

As Trump often says, “we’ll see what happens.”

Trump thinks he knows better than anyone about anything, and yet we can all see that he knows almost nothing about what his job entails. This video has been floating around lately.

How to explain Trump’s illusion of competency? Seemingly in answer to this question, The Washington Post has posted an article on the Dunning-Kruger effect: What’s behind the confidence of the incompetent? This suddenly popular psychological phenomenon.

You may have witnessed this scene at work, while socializing with friends or over a holiday dinner with extended family: Someone who has very little knowledge in a subject claims to know a lot. That person might even boast about being an expert.

This phenomenon has a name: the Dunning-Kruger effect. It’s not a disease, syndrome or mental illness; it is present in everybody to some extent, and it’s been around as long as human cognition, though only recently has it been studied and documented in social psychology.

In their 1999 paper, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, David Dunning and Justin Kruger put data to what has been known by philosophers since Socrates, who supposedly said something along the lines of “the only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing.” Charles Darwin followed that up in 1871 with “ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.”

Put simply, incompetent people think they know more than they really do, and they tend to be more boastful about it.

To test Darwin’s theory, the researchers quizzed people on several topics, such as grammar, logical reasoning and humor. After each test, they asked the participants how they thought they did. Specifically, participants were asked how many of the other quiz-takers they beat.

Dunning was shocked by the results, even though it confirmed his hypothesis. Time after time, no matter the subject, the people who did poorly on the tests ranked their competence much higher. On average, test takers who scored as low as the 10th percentile ranked themselves near the 70th percentile. Those least likely to know what they were talking about believed they knew as much as the experts.

That’s it for me today. I’m trying to decide whether to leave the TV off tonight or just mute it until the Democratic response begins. What are you going to do?


40 Comments on “Tuesday Reads: Trump Tantrum Live From The Oval Office Tonight”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    According to Trump stenographer Jonathan Swan at Axios, the Trumpists are getting nervous about how bad the government shutdown is making them look.

    Trump’s new urgency on solving the shutdown

    The big picture: Trump’s prime-time address at 9:00 ET tonight, his first from the Oval Office, is part of an urgent P.R. strategy designed to make up for what some Republican officials feel was a languid use of the president’s bully pulpit over the holidays.

    Trump aides realize the situation could slip away from them politically as the impact is felt by taxpayers and federal workers across America.

    So the urgency is in putting pressure on Dems, and trying to make them own a “crisis” at the border.
    “I have no idea how this ends. I really don’t,” a senior White House official said.

    According to conversations with multiple sources familiar with speech prep, the White House plan is for Trump to ditch his fiery campaign rhetoric and hot partisan attacks on Speaker Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.

    But nobody will say so on the record.

    One reason: It’s Trump. And there’s never quite a 0% chance that he scrunches up Stephen Miller’s script, ignores the advice, and does what he does.

  2. OG says:

    Put on your seat belt. It us going to be a bumpy ride.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Thanks for posting the link!

    • quixote says:

      Rolling around laughing. No, really!

      The most face-to-face I ever got with fundies was while doing abortion clinic defense in Baton Rouge in the 1980s. Obviously a grad student (which I was at the time) mixes with a certain kind of crowd, some of whom seemed dumber than doorknobs to me.

      And then I got into discussions, as I say, with those fundies. It was gobsmacking. I couldn’t understand how you could function in the world — you know, look things up in phone books which we had at the time, call the doctor’s office to make an appointment — if you were that stupid.

      With this research, it starts to make sense.

    • NW Luna says:

      Wish they would have given the reference; very bad form not to, even in the lay press. However the findings aren’t quite so straightforward as Raw Story implies. Here’s the ref:

      Zhong W, Cristofori I, Bulbulia J, Krueger F, Grafman J. Neuropsychologia. 2017 Jun;100 :18-25. Biological and cognitive underpinnings of religious fundamentalism. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2017.04.009. Epub 2017 Apr 6.

      Abstract: Beliefs profoundly affect people’s lives, but their cognitive and neural pathways are poorly understood. Although previous research has identified the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) as critical to representing religious beliefs, the means by which vmPFC enables religious belief is uncertain. We hypothesized that the vmPFC represents diverse religious beliefs and that a vmPFC lesion would be associated with religious fundamentalism, or the narrowing of religious beliefs. To test this prediction, we assessed religious adherence with a widely-used religious fundamentalism scale in a large sample of 119 patients with penetrating traumatic brain injury (pTBI). If the vmPFC is crucial to modulating diverse personal religious beliefs, we predicted that pTBI patients with lesions to the vmPFC would exhibit greater fundamentalism, and that this would be modulated by cognitive flexibility and trait openness. Instead, we found that participants with dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) lesions have fundamentalist beliefs similar to patients with vmPFC lesions and that the effect of a dlPFC lesion on fundamentalism was significantly mediated by decreased cognitive flexibility and openness. These findings indicate that cognitive flexibility and openness are necessary for flexible and adaptive religious commitment, and that such diversity of religious thought is dependent on dlPFC functionality.

      Link to free PMC full-text article: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5500821/

      Searching PubMed for Grafman’s publications brings up some other interesting articles, many of which are freely accessible. This one is intriguing: Childhood Socioeconomic Status Predicts Cognitive Outcomes Across Adulthood Following Traumatic Brain Injury.

      Fascinating area of research — I could get lost for days reading up on this.

      • Enheduanna says:

        I have read articles linking frontal cortex damage to serial killers. Shaken baby syndrome turns up in quite a few cases? I’m obviously not even close to expert in this area, but they’ve studied the brains of people such as the Los Angeles Hillside stranglers and found frontal cortex damage IIRC.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Thanks for posting, Luna. I had problems with the way Raw Story presented the study, particularly their claims for causation, which could not be demonstrated from the data. It was a correlational study based on a nonrepresentative sample.

      • quixote says:

        Thanks for that, Luna. Doesn’t explain stupidity. Figures. What was it Goethe said? Against stupidity even the gods themselves are helpless? I’m sure he said it better.

    • Fannie says:

      Wow, back in 2000, Mike Pence made up some phony numbers, and said cigarettes don’t kill. He’s still on the phony side.

  3. bostonboomer says:

  4. bostonboomer says:

  5. OG says:

    Best thing to do now is contact your congressman and urge that congress pass a budget and override Teumos veto if there us one. Congress will respond to enough pressure from voters.

  6. bostonboomer says:

    Manfort’s lawyers filed a response to Mueller “under seal,” but they mess up when trying to redact the documents.

  7. bostonboomer says:

    • NW Luna says:

      I’ll take “Yes” for $1,000.

    • lililam says:

      Freudian slip? Maybe his lawyers were unconsciously attempting to get out from defending a monster, or more likely, a clerk or assistant either sabotaged the documents or merely messed up.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Or maybe making sure Trump knows what Mueller caught Manafort lying about. Manafort is still playing for a pardon.

  8. NW Luna says:

    Love the cartoons, BB. I especially like Nancy Pelosi’s present of “the Wall.”

  9. NW Luna says:

    Now here’s the right name for Trump’s on-air tantrum rant.

  10. NW Luna says:

    Bernie Sanders is that dog in the manger.

    • Enheduanna says:

      Whoa – how many ways can this egomaniac wear out his welcome?

      • NW Luna says:

        Any way that involves cameras.

        • quixote says:

          Jeeeebus. Thirty years he’s spent in Congress doing nothing. One taste of hero worship, and now he can’t stop, won’t stop wagging his finger.

          Somebody needs to plaster the already-well-known-and-out-there oppo research all over him and make him go away.

  11. bostonboomer says:

  12. bostonboomer says:

    I just put up an open thread in case anyone wants to discuss the Televised Trump Tantrum.